Today’s Suburbo simply elaborates on Wednesday’s opening salvo. The omnipresence of adults surrounding children’s activities in today’s Suburbo is stunning. We always had “dads” coaching our Little League teams but nowadays there’s an entire staff of coaches (dads) --- for 10-year olds! Above and beyond that, even if a parent is simply a “spectator,” it is not unusual to hear parents offering “coaching” tips to their individual child while a game is in progress! In some instances children run over to their parents (leaving their dugout or their basketball bench) to receive “coaching” (or solace for a bump or bruise) from mom and/or dad.
Because the suburbs are physically vast and the world has become such a dangerous place, parents are understandably concerned about their children’s safety. At the same time, we seem to be living in some extreme enactment of John Irving’s “World According to Garp.” If you remember that wildly popular novel, the main character (Garp, no first name) was uncommonly (& excessively?) protective of his children (especially for 1978). It presents a vision of neuroses that foresaw our current landscape.
Technology has added another layer to the entire “1984-ness” of keeping an eye on our children. Beyond the cameras in the baby’s room we also have phone-tracking apps, so that the children are never totally outside the range of their surveilling parents. So, between parents, car-pool grown-ups, teachers, coaches, and music/dance instructors KIDS have very little time to be children simply playing with other children.
Initially I thought I was being a crank and an old crab but Wednesday’s Suburbo drew quite a bit of response from other old codgers sharing their memories of an earlier age, when kids were on their own and left to figure things out with other kids. I know the world changes and I’m certainly all for “progress,” but I have to say that I was always impressed by “city kids” who (from an early age) were navigating the MetroCard bus and subway systems (without adults!) and dealing with NYC’s slings and arrows without constant adult supervision. Certainly that seems a far more “dangerous” environment than our pastoral suburbs. Yet the children in the Suburbo are much more "protected" (and sheltered?) than their urban peers. Just wondering if maybe, just maybe, the Suburbo KIDS might be given a little more independent free rein before they’re off on their own in a world that doesn’t always provide a parent as a cushion.
Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!